And I’m not talking about the Meadowlands or Met Life Stadium, current gridiron activities notwithstanding.
For true history buffs, there is a real and visceral thrill to be had by standing where critical history has happened.
It’s about a tavern—a tavern that is an easy day trip for anyone in central Jersey. As a beer writer, I have frequented many taverns and pubs, and if you read my stuff, you may have read my tribute to the Revolutionary tavern as a place where more than beer was brewing. That column was inspired by a trip I took to Williamsburg, VA, one that every history nut should take, especially nuts with small children. Such a visit will go a long way toward inculcating in one’s progeny a healthy respect and appreciation for AMERICAN HISTORY, in the days when this republic was simply gestating, but preparing to blast into life with the “shot heard ‘round the world.”
The tavern I speak of today is Fraunces Tavern in New York City. Its history can be found online at http://www.frauncestavernmuseum.org/mus_history.html , and I’d advise reading it and other related pages before you go if you want to heighten the effect of its importance.
When my lads were young, we frequently visited NYC during the summer and some of its more famous locales, always including South Street Seaport, which is a short walk from Fraunces Tavern. The very first time we entered, my original intent was to grab a cold quality brew. But upon entering, the comely wench attired in mobcap and colonial garb at the reception station asked if we wanted admission to “The Museum.” The Socrates in me overruled the Brendan Behan in me, so we went in, postponing my quaff for a later time—which of course now meant I could indulge in two.
The Museum—where General George Washington bade farewell to his troops in 1783—had the same effect on me as The Royal Governor’s Mansion in Perth Amboy. The room was laid out as it was when the Father of our Country eschewed a military government after his victory to return to his beloved Mt. Vernon—though not forever, as history bears out. Anyone who has studied the American revolution, and who has NOT come away with the notion that George Washington was precisely the right man in the right place and at the right time to be America’s midwife is woefully under-educated about him.
To be sure, he did not do it alone, and the number of completely serendipitous occurrences that brought this nation to victory at Yorktown is proof to this writer of the role of Providence. There may be those who disagree with this statement: God Almighty wanted this nation to be born. But they are probably not serious students of Revolutionary history. Else why would He have given us George Washington precisely at the moment we needed him?
The Museum, which has fascinating exhibits, and which shows a short film called “The Crossing,” (strongly recommended and available on DVD) will likely bring the true history buff to my conclusion.
If you, like me, get that “feeling” in historical places, you might find the effect increased when you stand on the boards and look in the rooms where the Father of our Country said goodbye to his officers. You might imagine the scene unfolding in your mind’s eye—I did.
And you might just feel more humbled and thankful than you ever have before.
So I'm cracking open a George Washington's Tavern Porter from Yard's. Hail to the Chief!